54: Independent traders
The armor served its purpose well. Hlaalu retainers are well known for their ability to appraise value at a glance, and walking into their council hall clad from head to toe in rare artifacts garnered immediate attention. Nileno Dorvayn, the house steward, approached immediately. "Greetings! Are you interested in doing business with House Hlaalu?" Her friendly smile did not extend to her red eyes, and for some reason I thought of slaughterfish.
"I have business with the house. With the council, not their underlings. Call them to meet."
She took a step back, which was probably good. I was already uncomfortably warm from the walk, and I suspect the anger boiling off of her was noticably raising the temperature in her immediate vicinity.
"I don't know who you think you are, outlander," she hissed. "The council has authorized me to handle the business of the house. They are independent traders, and take care of their own business themselves. They don't meet. Whatever business you thought you had was within my purview. The only business you have left is to get out of here."
The guards were tensed, hands on weapons. I did nothing to relax them. Moon and Star pulsed on my finger with a blinding glow as I raised my fist to their leader. "This current council may shirk their duties, but it was not always so. My business with the Hlaalu began long before their corrupt tenure, but it is to be concluded now."
Her eyes were wide as she stared into the depths of the ring. "Nerevar," she gasped. She shifted smoothly to an appeasing tone. "The council really does not meet," she said. "Especially now. Orvas Dren, a high ranking member of the house, was killed at his plantation yesterday. The councillors are...concerned...and they..."
"They are in hiding," I interrupted. "Cowering in their kennels like dogs abandoned by their master. Yes, Dren was a high ranking member of the house. The puppeteer who ran your council through fear and corruption. It sickens me that the noble Hlaalu have fallen so low. It is time for your council to rise up on their hind legs and speak as mer." There was no point in glaring, but I turned the golden visage of my Dwemer helm on each of the guards in turn to let them know they would not be well served to interfere, then drew the Foeshocker. "This is the blade that struck down Orvas Dren. This is the blade that will cut free the outlander corruption from the body of the Velothi." Lightning crackled along the golden metal. "No doubt I can go to them faster than they can rise from their stupors and come to me."
"There are... some of the... the council members... some of them are outlanders..." she stammered.
"I know that," I snapped. "I have met one. A disgusting individual, but he has accepted that being a house councillor is a duty. A duty that he will put before his outlander business. One can only hope the Dunmer born will do the same. Duty and honor shall be served! Those who pillage the heritage of the Velothi are the 'outlanders'..." I cleaved a table with a stroke of lightning, and swept half of it away in a hail of splinters. "They shall not stand."
I turned slowly. "You are guardians of the council chambers of a great house. A duty, and you stand there like outlander statues. Better that you had drawn swords and gone to your ancestors now with honor than later on your knees. I am leaving. You will decide your futures. Either commit to your duties or resign your posts. If you ever allow this chamber to be violated like this again I will slay you myself." I deliberately turned my back and stalked from the room. In the modern house Hlaalu a turned back is a common target, but I counted on my point about honor having been made. It apparently was.
A quick series of teleports and a brief flight put me on Elmas Island, just east of Vivec. The Hlaalu guards at the Omani plantation were no better versed in the honor of their duties than they had been at the council hall. I struck the door from its hinges with a clap of thunder. "Velanda Omani! You are the head of the Hlaalu council! Put aside your own business, your duty has come to you."
To her credit Omani did step forward. My conversation with the nominal head of the council was short. She is accustommed to being told what to do by Orvas Dren, but I believe she will grow into the leader her position requires. She set a date for the first meeting of the Hlaalu council in over a decade. I will be notifying the council members for her myself.